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02 September 2014 Last updated
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Food | Reviews

5 fabulous five-star iftars

Treat yourself to a lavish spread come sunset with one of these five-star feasts

<i>Friday</i> magazine
5 Aug 2013 | 11:07 am
  • Source:Supplied pictures

The Address Dubai Marina

With its Constellation Ballroom decked out in regal silk drapes
and a mouth-watering selection
of global gourmet food on offer,
The Address Dubai Marina is the epitome of iftar style.

Big enough to hold 550, the fourth-floor sumptuous setting still manages to be warm and inviting, mainly
due to its decor – traditional Arabian with a chic twist. “It feels like we’re at a wedding but without a bride and groom,” my husband whispered as we chose a table, and he was right.

Families, friends and colleagues all sat together, a hum of banter and laughter filling the air, as we waited for sunset so we could begin our feast. And what an impressive spread it was – the menu was almost as large as the venue. Along with the usual iftar fare of cold mezze – deliciously creamy hummus, fattouch and tabbouleh, along with vegetarian warak enab (stuffed vine leaves) there was an array of international dishes.

At the salad station, I piled my plate high with Greek and tomato-and-mozzarella salad, couscous and roast-pumpkin salad, then happily made my own Caesar side salad, topped with crunchy croutons. My husband meanwhile had dived straight into the mains, coming back first with a traditional lamb ouzi – what else? – and Arabic grill, making sure he had enough room to sample the chicken shawarma. His smile said it all as he cleared his plate, then went back for more lamb with Arabic rice.

I have always loved the tiny warm mezze so devoured a couple of spinach fatayer, cheese rolls and falafel next before trying to decide between an Asian, Indian or Italian main dish. There was fresh sushi, plump dim sum, tempting egg-fried rice, a live pasta station with chefs creating made-to-order farfalle carbonara, penne arrabbiata and fusilli pomodoro (the fusilli was just like my Italian mother-in-law makes) and a delicious and authentic-tasting vegetable lasagna.

For children (and their parents) there were hot dogs, mini burgers, chicken nuggets and fish goujons, while entire families were tucking into the Indian cuisine. I’d left just enough room for a taste of vegetable jalfrezi, biryani and buttery naan bread, but it was a squeeze to fit in any dessert.

Luckily, as well as baklava and umm ali there were mini tiramisus, berry trifle, crème brÛlée, lemon meringue tart and crème fraiche cheesecake, so my husband and I managed to try a few, each more delicious than the last, before admitting defeat.

We left vowing to return. This iftar was amazing. Together with the stylish venue, and rich and inviting ambience, it was a five-star feast for all the family.

Details: Iftar buffet available from sunset until 9pm, suhour menu available from 8pm onwards. Iftar buffet at Dh155 per person, the suhour is à la carte with no minimum spend. Call 04 436 7777 or email meet.dubaimarina@theaddress.com

-- Karen Pasquali-Jones

Radisson Blu Deira Creek

One of my favourite childhood Ramadan memories is having been invited for iftar at my best friend’s house.

I would watch quietly as she and her family prayed together. When they were done, my friend would look up at me with her big eyes – huge with pride that she completed another day of fasting and
even bigger with excitement
at what was waiting for us in the kitchen. I’m no longer 10 years old and, sadly, no longer have access to my friend’s mum’s home-cooked feasts. However, I recently remembered those good times as I headed to an iftar at Radisson Blu Deira Creek’s Shabestan Restaurant.

The location may only be the second floor of the hotel but entering Shabestan is like taking a journey to a very distant time. At the entrance is a traditional clay oven that is manned by a faithful 26-year-veteran bread-maker with Radisson Blu. If he were in my kitchen making his bread for me every day, I would have to invest in some serious gym time! The bread is piping hot, delicious, and fresh out of the oven a minute after you get to your table – perfect for dipping into your hummus and using instead of your cutlery.

The buffet spread was set beautifully with dishes that smelt so good they held the promise of a very full
and very happy tummy. Promise kept, indeed. Fine traditional Iranian and Arabic dishes were on offer, so don’t hesitate to indulge in the freshest of salads, tastiest marinated meat kebabs, perfumed rice, homely yet classy stewed fish – which I couldn’t get enough of – and a whole lot more to keep your taste buds entertained.

And don’t forget to seal the evening with a sweet kiss from the dessert table.

My top tip? Ask for one of the tables inside the private rooms.

Details: Dh139 per person including Iranian tea and Ramadan juices.

Call 04 205 7333 or email infocenter.dxbza@radissonblu.com

-- Grace Paras

Raffles Dubai

The moment I entered Azur,
Raffles’ all-day dining restaurant,
I realised that lavish can be elegant too. Converted into a very classy yet casual majlis setting to suit the occasion, it was the massive spread of food that caught my attention.

A buffet with around 65 dishes (I counted) as well as live cooking and carving stations manned by very efficient and affable staff were well spread out on one side of the room, ensuring that there was enough space to move round.

As I nibbled on delicately crafted, golden-brown fatayers, sampled delightfully delicious beetroot moutabel, dug into succulent pieces of meat with flaky cheese-stuffed saj bread and pondered over sinful miniature desserts, I realised that Azur is one place where charm, comfort and culinary excellence all come together to give you an experience that is truly satiating.

Details: Dh185 inclusive of soft drinks, juices and water. Call 04 324 9888 or email at dining.dubai@raffles.com

 -- Mrinal Shekar

Grand Hyatt Dubai

Ramadan as a time for reflection and restraint, but also a time for family, food and friends, is the concept that runs through the heart of this indulgent iftar.

Grumbling stomachs and sugar cravings need look no further, as the delectable authentic Arabic cuisine in Al Ameera will have even the fullest of stomachs reaching for round two!

The Grand Hyatt’s opulent ballroom has been transformed into a warm, Arabian haven at this time of the year where observers can end their fast with traditional dates and soothing teas. From sunset the room is heady with abundant aromas of tempting treats emanating from live cooking stations. Chefs from Jordan, Lebanon and Syria combine regional flavours and culinary expertise to produce a medley of Middle Eastern favourites.

You can choose from an array of dishes including tantalising Tunisian lamb couscous, Jordan’s Chicken mousakhen, Lebanon’s healthy hindbeh bil zeit or dandelion leaves in olive oil (prepared even better than my Teta’s!) and the Emirati dish of the day. But it wasn’t just the versatility and quality of the feast that was a star attraction during my visit; the way the food is cooked and presented is a real draw.

Traditionally dressed Abu Ala Al Halabi poured Ramadan juices at the tables, and the guest chefs from Jordan’s Habiba Kitchen made knufa (sesame bread rings filled with cheese and honey) so well that there was a constant queue.

Whether you have a sweet tooth or not, you’ll want to watch the traditional beating of world-renowned Syrian bakdash ice cream.

The Al Ameera iftar is all about local spirit and family ties and, while the focus is certainly the menu, the ingredients include an authentic ambience, Arabian decor and regional entertainment. Whether you’re fasting or not, this is well worth a try!

Details: Grand Iftar Dh175 per person including soft drinks. Call 04 317 2222 or email dubai.grand@hyatt.com

-- Anthea Ayachie

Al Qasr Dubai

Overlooking the inviting pool and gardens of the majestic Al Qasr hotel, Khaymat Al Bahar offers a perfect, relaxed setting to savour authentic Arabic cuisine this Ramadan. It’s the first year the restaurant has run an iftar buffet, and it is dishing up an array of delicious food from different Arabic countries. End your fast with a selection of hot and cold mezzes – from delicious spinach fatayers, to hot-out-of-the-oven cheese manakeesh and vine leaves – before starting on the mains.

There is a wide selection of hearty dishes to sate your appetite. I began with the tender and aromatic chicken tagine – a Moroccan speciality – and the mixed grill (a platter of lamb and chicken kebabs, and lamb chops) before sampling the deliciously creamy veal harres (veal shank and wheat, cooked for eight hours then blended together and coated with local ghee) – a definite must-try that complemented the dawood basha (prime lamb meatballs braised in an intense onion and tomato sauce) wonderfully.

To end the evening, I indulged my sweet tooth with a selection of Arabic and Moroccan pastries and puddings. The umm ali was my overall favourite dessert, so delicately sweet and perfumed with the subtle flavour of rose water. Although this traditional dessert is usually made with cow’s milk, during Ramadan the restaurant is making it with camel milk instead.

Details: From sunset to 8.30pm, Dh190 per person including beverages. For reservations call
 04 366 6730 or email MJrestaurants@jumeirah.com

-- Kerry-Ann Henrico

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